Horeswood native Sarah Cleary brings a taste of Rocky Horror back home – Gorey Guardian, October 15 2016

Fishnets, corsets, streamers and party hats are all part of a day’s work for Horeswood native Sarah Cleary and the aim of her game is to bring people into her wacky world.

As the organiser of the country’s many Rocky Horror Picture Show productions, Sarah’s current day job is a far cry from office work or a teaching stint but every bit as hectic. With the countdown to Halloween underway, preparations are in full swing for this year’s shadow cast productions.

First stop will be Wexford Quay, where the Spiegeltent is set to come alive with the weird and wonderful world of the Rocky Horror Picture Show this Friday. With only days to go, Sarah is hoping that the Wexford audience is as prepared as she is.

‘The shows combine a film screening with live acting but it’s not just a show for people to sit and watch. We want complete audience participation. We want the people getting up on their feet and using the props we supply and we encourage them to throw rice, toast and streamers at the stage,’ explained Sarah.

‘There are absolutely no holds barred when it comes to Rocky Horror. Fancy dress is more than encouraged and everything and anything is welcome. We encourage people to take on new personas so that they can get whipped up in the atmosphere.’

‘It’s the most crazy surreal experience you can imagine to watch an entire audience take on various characters.’

This year marks the third time that Rocky Horror has rolled into Wexford and owing to previous success, Sarah is looking forward to bringing the madness back home.

‘I have to say that the first time we put it on in Wexford, I was apprehensive doing it in my hometown. I am a very proud Wexford woman and didn’t want to let the side down!’ she said. ‘I was blown away with how involved people got and how willing they were to participate in the show. I have to applaud the people of Wexford for that. Hopefully it is the same this year.’

Sarah’s rise to Rocky Horror revelry began eleven years ago, when she approached the Sugar Club in Dublin with the idea of putting on the Rocky Horror Picture Show. An avid fan of the film, she longed to recreate the events once held by the Classic Cinema in Harold’s Cross before it closed down.

‘I have always loved the film and decided Dublin needed it back again,’ she explained. ‘I put it on to test the waters but I never planned for it to be so successful. The first night, we sold out. Eleven years later, I am performing three or four shows around the country.’

Over the years, Sarah has discovered just how many Rocky Horror fans are in the country and the lengths that they will go to get involved in one of the live productions. What is it that makes the showings of cult classic such a hit?

‘I think one of the reasons is that it’s a release valve. Whether you are a doctor, a lawyer or a journalist, everyone needs to let off steam. Rocky Horror is a very safe way of doing so,’ explained Sarah. ‘It is similar to burlesque and other such communities that sometimes people are reluctant to get involved in because they feel they are exclusive. Rocky Horror, on the other hand, is every man’s dress up.’

‘I think ultimately we are creatures that want to seek out fun and Rocky Horror is the epitome of letting your hair down and enjoying yourself.’

While others are letting their hair down, Sarah will be curling hers up as she takes on the persona of Janet for the production. She describes taking on the character as a fun but strange experience.

‘I am quite tall with long blonde hair but for the show, I have it curled up to be like Janet so people never make the connection between us when they meet me later on. Also in real life, I tend to wear clothes,’ she laughed. ‘On the stage I am essentially running around in my underwear but I have gotten used to it. All shapes and sizes are celebrated in the show; it isn’t an environment where you need to be perfect.’

When the clothes are back on and the show is all over, Sarah has plenty of other things to keep her busy. In the real world, she is otherwise known as Dr Sarah Cleary, having gained her PHD in Controversial Horror and Children’s Censorship. She now lectures part-time in Trinity specialising in Gothic Studies and English Literature. Along with working in the academic environment, she also runs her own events including the Horror Expo which will be held in Freemason’s Grand Lodge in Dublin in the coming weeks.

But as night falls this Friday night, all responsibilities will be parked aside as Sarah makes her transformation, which is guaranteed to take a lot more preparation than a night in the Stores.

‘As Dolly Parton once said, it takes a lot of money to look this cheap,’ she laughed.

(First published in the Gorey Guardian newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/goreyguardian/out-about/horeswood-native-sarah-cleary-brings-a-taste-rocky-horror-back-home-35119888.htmlhttp://www.independent.ie/regionals/goreyguardian/out-about/horeswood-native-sarah-cleary-brings-a-taste-rocky-horror-back-home-35119888.html)

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Taking Centre Stage – Bray People, September 10 2016

In part one of this special report, Amy Lewis looks at Wicklow’s role in the film industry – who works in it, what it means for the garden County and what can be done to improve it.

Wicklow has served as the backdrop for hundreds of big-name films and TV series and the county has certainly reaped the rewards.

It is estimated that the film industry is worth €70m to the Wicklow economy. However, Wicklow Film Commissioner Vibeke Delahunt reckons that the reality is much higher.

‘Unfortunately there is a lack of data available. We have heard very conservatively that it could be worth about €70m every year but I think it is much more,’ she explained. ‘The industry has a huge ripple effect across the county and its services.’

Following the construction of Ardmore Studios in 1958, more international and homegrown producers began to flock to the county. Recognising the county’s potential in the world of film, Wicklow County Council looked to our neighbours in the states for ideas on to harness it and allow it to flourish. The result was the establishment of the Wicklow Film Commission in 1992 – the first of its kind in the country.

‘Because Wicklow was unique in Ireland with Ardmore, and now also with Ashford, it was felt by the county manager at the time that setting one up would be good for economic development and promoting Wicklow.’

The Wicklow Film Commission’s roles include promoting the county as a film location, liaising with filmmakers and providing them with various services and facilities.

‘We have had up years as well as down years such as in the 1990s and even after 2000. But in the last five or six years, production based here has gone up,’ said Vibeke, who added the opening of Ashford Studios and additional Film Factory at Ardmore means that production is going up all of the time.

Wicklow’s long showreel of films includes ‘Braveheart’, ‘Michael Collins’, ‘Excalibar’, ‘The Guard’, ‘Dancing at Lunasa’ and ‘Breakfast on Pluto’, while TV shows ‘The Tudors’, ‘Penny Dreadful’, ‘Ripper Street’, ‘Mooneboy’ and ‘Raw’ have also used Wicklow as their stage. There are a number of reasons why film and TV producers flock from across the globe to Ireland’s Garden County.

‘Rich tax incentives here have a lot to do with foreign productions filming here,’ she explained. ‘They also need to work out of a studio and we have the main two in the country here. Wicklow also has well-trained, experienced and talented crew, along with a wide range of locations that can double up for other places in Europe. All of these elements come together and that is recognised internationally.’

It’s a case of a lot done, a lot more to do. The Wicklow Film Commission is currently working at addressing any skills gaps by consulting with people in the industry. A recent introductory course to ‘hairdressing on a film set’ marked the beginning of this. It saw twelve trained hairdressers get to grips with working on a film set under the instruction of Vikings hairdresser Dee Corcoran.

Developing Wicklow County Campus at Clermount by expanding the number of film-related courses on offer is the next step in addressing these skills shortages.

‘We are looking at different sectors at the moment,’ said Vibeke. ‘We have been told by people in the industry that we need more trained people in props, model-making, prosthetics and electricians for example.’

‘There’s also a lot of work we could do for schools to incorporate film into the school curriculum.’

Another welcome move is the application for expansion at Ashford Studios.

‘We are very excited about Joe looking to expand and we support him in his work. It’s great to have a local man looking to develop infrastructure which we badly need. They are turning away work because they don’t have the space,’ she said.

‘There are a lot of interesting projects at the moment,’ said Vibeke. ‘We have ‘Into the Badlands’ and ‘I Killed Giants’ filming at the moment.’

(First published in the Bray People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/braypeople/news/taking-centre-stage-35026806.html)

Wicklow residents recall the day a film crew met their fate – Wicklow People, September 17 2016

A moment of movie magic turned to disaster in August 1970 when four people were killed in a plane crash during the filming of World War I film ‘Zeppelin’ off Wicklow Head.

During a scene involving a plane and an Alouette II camera helicopter, the two aircraft collided, resulting in the loss of the lives of the director, camera man and two pilots.

Vincent O’Reilly, who was working in a factory on the waterfront, was the first to ring the emergency services.

‘There weren’t many phones on the go in the 1970s but I had the phone beside me in work and when I saw it happen, I gave the emergency services a call,’ he said. ‘As far as I am aware, I was the first one to do so.’

The Irish Air Corp pilot Jim Liddy of the SE.5A and all on board the Alouette were killed, including pilot Gilbert ‘Gilly’ Chomat, renowned cameraman Skeets Kelly and director Burch Williams.

Two of the main actors in the film were Michael York and Elke Sommer but neither were involved in the accident.

Vincent’s brother Stan also recalls the catastrophe.

‘I remember the shock and the horror,’ he said. ‘People down there were outside watching the filming for the day and they couldn’t believe what they were seeing.’

Tommy Dover of the Wicklow RNLI also has vivid memories of the crash, despite being very young at the time.

‘We were kids when it happened. There were about seven or eight planes and a helicopter with the crew so we went to the castle to watch the filming,’ he said. ‘I just remember the bang. It was my first time experiencing fear. Everyone started shouting to get the lifeboat.’

It is understood that the same aircraft had been used only several weeks previously during the filming of ‘The Blue Max’ and everything had run smoothly. Witnesses of the Zeppelin disaster believe that the two aircraft may have accidentally veered too close to one another.

Despite the accident, the film was completed and later released in 1971 under the director Etienne Perier.

(First published in the Wicklow People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/wicklowpeople/news/wicklow-residents-recall-the-day-a-film-crew-met-their-fate-35046061.html)

Evening of movie magic at Brooklyn premiere – Enniscorthy Guardian, November 7 2015

Make it happen.

Those were the words of author Colm Toibín when the chances of pulling off the Brooklyn premiere in his hometown appeared slim. Yet, make it happen they did. After months of lengthy discussions, problem-solving, technical issues and ballroom renovations, crowds of people finally converged on Enniscorthy to witness Brooklyn make its return home.

However, the true homecoming was the arrival of Colm himself, who served as guest of honour at the important event. For the proud Enniscorthy native, bringing the story back to his hometown was extremely important.

‘It’s just amazing coming back down here with the film and it’s great to see how the audience feels about it,’ he said. ‘It feels great to see places such as Johns Street, Court Street and the Athenaeum and to see the way that it’s captured and lit.’

Colm’s sense of pride in Enniscorthy was evident throughout the evening as he spoke to hordes of reporters and fans about his novel during numerous interviews and panel discussions.

‘First and foremost, the book is for people you know and the place you’re from,’ he said. ‘I think that really matters to everyone and it certainly matters to me.’

Although the novel version of Brooklyn is based in Enniscorthy, shooting the film in the town was not always a certainty. However, when Colm told the director to take a look at the place, the decision was soon made to set up the cameras there.

‘They had to pick the place that would work best for filmmaking,’ he explained. ‘The director went down on his own and drove around. He then said that we can shoot in the town and not only that, but we can shoot the beach scene in Curracloe. It looks absolutely fantastic. People all over the world will want to know if they can come to that beach.’

According to Colm, the Enniscorthy community couldn’t have been more welcoming to the film crew when they arrived to shoot the scenes. Brooklyn and its stars attracted plenty of attention from the local and wider community, particularly Saoirse Ronan, who plays Eilis in the film. Although she was unable to attend the premiere last week, Colm was quick to sing her praises as an actress.

‘She’s not anyone’s girlfriend, daughter or sister in this film. It’s her film and it’s a great part for her,’ said Colm. ‘We were really lucky that she was free to do it. She can do something in a second with her face that it takes me 30 pages to do. It’s been wonderful working with her.’

Based in 1950s Ireland, the film follows Eilis as she makes the journey from Enniscorthy to Brooklyn in search of a new life. Pervading throughout much of the movie is the theme of homesickness, which is partially based on the author’s own experiences.

‘I went to Texas and was there teaching for 14 weeks and I got a bit lonely. So, when I came back, the whole idea of what it is like for so many Irish people going away was on my mind. I then started the book,’ he explained. ‘It was my own life in that I had those feelings of wishing I was home and wanting to go home.’

The idea of experiencing and getting over homesickness is one that many people can relate to. Although Brooklyn is set in 1950s Ireland, Colm believes that it is just as relevant today

‘I don’t think it makes any difference whether you get a letter from home or Skype home. When the Skype is over and you close the computer, the feeling of “I’m here and they’re there” is still the same.’

Colm was not the only star to grace the red carpet at the Riverside Park Hotel for the occasion. Also present on the night was actress Eve Macklin, who plays Diana, and Gary Lydon, who stars as Mr Farrell in the film. Commenting on his involvement with Brooklyn, Gary said that he was honoured to be part of it.

‘There’s a sense of pride that people are talking about your home place,’ said Gary, who grew up in Wexford.

According to Gary, who came to the event with his two sons, the film should be commended for its bravery.

‘It stays with the characters and doesn’t feel the need to be brash or try to sell the film. It trusts the characters and trusts the story and that will make it successful,’ he added.

Chairman of Enniscorthy Municipal District Cllr Paddy Kavanagh echoed the thoughts of all in attendance when he said that he was ‘immensely proud’ of Colm.

‘I’m delighted that he brought it back to his own,’ he said. ‘The reviews so far are all positive. Wouldn’t it be fabulous for Enniscorthy if Brooklyn won an Oscar? It’s mindboggling, actually, the potential that it has if it goes to the top.’

(First published in the Enniscorthy Guardian: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/newrossstandard/news/evening-of-movie-magic-at-brooklyn-premiere-34163198.html)

Wexford locals reconnect with their community in online mapping project – Wexford People, June 30 2015

Residents of several small Wexford villages are being invited to reconnect with their hometowns in a new community mapping project funded by Wexford County County Council.

An example of Michael's previous work in Blackwater.
An example of Michael’s previous work in Blackwater. Source: Aboutthisplace.ie

The project, which will be conducted by heritage expert Michael Fortune, is based around the mapping of sites of local, cultural and historical importance.

In conjunction with Tidy Towns and local youth groups, Michael will spend several months creating online maps for Kilmuckridge, Taghmon and Fethard On Sea.

This follows a similar endeavour previously undertaken in other villages which, according to Michael was ‘too good not to repeat.’

For Michael, who grew up in Ballygarrett, the aim of the project is to reconnect people with their homeplace and its history.

‘We won’t be mapping obvious sites such as castles and churches,’ he explained. ‘I want to rekindle that connection to place through ordinary things.’

With the help of local residents, Michael will create online maps pinpointing sites that may otherwise be forgotten. These include old handball alleys, holy wells, old paths and raheens. He also hopes to speak with people living in these villages and collect their stories from the past.

The first project meeting was held in Kilmuckridge on June 24 with over 15 people in attendance. During the meeting, which took place in Hammel’s Lounge, members of the Kilmuckridge Tidy Towns Committee joined with other local people to discuss their village with Michael.

In addition to a map, Michael explained how he intends to undertake several smaller projects that are specific to Kilmuckridge.

‘Ned Kavanagh, a local man, wrote a book several years ago and now only has one copy left,’ he said. ‘As part of this project, I hope to make a digital copy of his work and put it online.’

Michael and local residents will also use the project as an opportunity to mark the 200 year anniversary of the Tinnaberna fishing disaster.

This incident, which involved the loss of six fishing boats off the Wexford coast, has only ever been recorded through song.

‘A man named John Furlong knows the words to The Tinnaberna Fishermen,’ explained Michael. ‘Over the next few months, we hope to record him singing it so that those who were lost at sea can be commemorated.’

For John Hearne, Chairman of Kilmuckridge Tidy Towns, it is important to remember such events.

‘We must preserve our local history and heritage,’ he said. ‘By taking part in things like this, we will be able to keep old stories for future generations.’

Although originally from Buckinghamshire, local resident and Tidy Town’s Secretary Samantha Paya said she is looking forward in getting involved in the project.

‘I am eager to find out more about Kilmuckridge,’ she said.

Michael will work in Kilmuckridge for up to five months before conducting similar research with residents in Taghmon and Fethard On Sea. He hopes that this year’s projects are successful as his previous ones.

In 2014, Michael developed a website and corresponding map for Blackwater village called Aboutthisplace.ie.

He has also worked on many other Wexford-based photography and film projects, including ‘Around the House’- a photographic publication produced by pupils of Coláiste Abbain, Adamstown and Ramsgrange Community School.

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/lifestyle/wexford-locals-reconnect-with-their-community-in-online-mapping-project-31341364.html)